Oh yeah, that whole thing

Somehow in all the hubbub the blogosphere stirred up about not signing Bengie Molina to a multi-year contract, it seems everyone forgot the Mets’ fallback plan at catcher. Aaron Gleeman makes an excellent point about ol’ Extra-Base Omir:

And before anyone points out that he was a rookie and is thus likely to improve, please note that Santos was a 28-year-old rookie who previously spent nine seasons in the minors hitting .258/.304/.348, including .256/.311/.325 at Triple-A. Guys who spend a decade in the minors posting a .652 OPS tend not to maintain a .671 OPS in the majors, so as bad as Santos was last season that was actually him playing over his head. Bengie Molina never looked so good.

The overwhelming consensus seems to say that Josh Thole needs a year in Triple-A to work on his game-calling and defense. I didn’t think Thole looked all that terrible behind the plate last year and Mets pitchers didn’t do any worse in small samples with Thole catching than with anyone else back there, but I’ll yield to the wisdom of the crowd and dismiss Thole as a possibility for either starting or platoon duties to begin 2010.

So that leaves Santos, Henry Blanco and Chris Coste. None is much of a hitter. Blanco is likely the best defender, though shoulder problems and advanced age should limit his playing time. Coste seems ticketed for Triple-A to school Thole in the fine art of staff-handling, but could hit the big club should Santos regress to his mean.

It’s rough when someone who posted a .298 wOBA* can be expected to regress, but, as Gleeman pointed out, Santos probably did play a little above his head last year.

That’s bad. Not as bad, mind you, as giving Bengie Molina a multi-year contract to play for a team without much realistic hope of competing in the coming season, but still bad.

So what options might be better than Santos? Rod Barajas and Yorvit Torrealba are still available as free agents. Neither appears primed to be a whole ton better than the Santos/Blanco tandem, but since they’ve both managed to hang on as poor-hitting catchers in the big leagues for a long while now, they’re both less likely than Santos to completely embarrass themselves at the plate — at least not any more than they usually do.

The Mets could also pursue a trade. I discussed Chris Snyder last week, and Dave suggested Dioner Navarro in the comments section. Either would be a nice buy-low acquisition if he could be had at a reasonable price.

The truth is, though, considering the Mets’ projected lineup and pitching staff, especially relative to what the Phillies and Braves will be fielding in 2010, it’s hard to imagine any catcher short of Joe Mauer catapulting them into contention.

That’s not to say, of course, that it’s reasonable to enter the season with Santos tapped to start. And to be honest, I’m nearly certain that all the talk that he will is bluster — misguided though it may be — intended to give the team leverage in some negotiation or another.

*- I noticed that the Daily News has been using OPS, so I’m upping my game. I use more advanced stats to inform my writing, so why not use them to enhance my writing? Anyway, a good overview of wOBA is here. (H/T to Patrick Flood for that link.)

6 thoughts on “Oh yeah, that whole thing

  1. I still think Dionner Navarro is a low cost high reward upgrade over what we have. Man view his dip last year from being disgruntled about his arbitration hearings. So maybe change of scenery- he it worked with Frenchie and we’re banking on it with GMJ.

    I dunno I’m old school, catchers are for defense, pitcher handling and not to be an easy out batting 8th. Seems Navarro would do this at the very least wonderfully as he handled the young rays staff well.

    i think even with Beltran our offense will do great this year so catching and pitching is what I’m worried about the most.

    I also am of the mindset that after Sheets none of the dogs left (save Wang) is worth the trouble or better than rolling the dice with our guys. I mean the odds of having that many injuries two years in a row are low. And guys like Nieve really impressed and no one has really spoken about his role or what not this season. And Niese is already drawing praise pitching at 50% as is Ollie.

    I’m starting to think that the way things are going now with late signings is how it should go from now on. You see your guys in be and make a decision whether to go with them or sign the B FAs.

  2. I just want to know what methodology the Mets front office have used this off season?

    Any player they have shown “interest” in – besides JB, has not been landed, maybe I’m reading too deeply between the lines, but there seems little desire to join the organisation.

    Is it just me – or has the off-season been very poor for the boys in Flushing? Or is there something I’m not hearing about that will provide the catalyst of enthusiasm going into Spring Training?

    Melbourne, Australia

  3. If Thole could put up a 725-750 OPS (or a 335-345 wOBA) then the guy should be our starter. His defense can’t really be that bad and the Mets coaching and scouting staff hasn’t exactly wowed me or been right on any occasion recently.

    Also, doesn’t this Jet loss feel eerily similar to the mets NLCS loss to the Braves in 99? It just feels like greater things will follow. It is too bad I am more of a 49ers fan, but my hatred for the Giants since the early 90s forced me into picking the Jets as my number 2.

  4. In Rubins rundown of Jerry quotes’ it sure sounds like they are entertaining the idea of starting Thole.

    To Martys post I think its really two things. There are defeinitely players who don’t want to play in NY (see Ankiel, Rick). Add in the Mets public turmoil, you can see a player saying “no thanks”. But I think (hope) its also a function of an organizational shift in strategy. That is, assign a value to a player and stick to it, particularly with an eye to long term value versus immediate return.

    That’s not to say they won’t negotiate; far from it. But if a player refuses to budge on what the team sees as irrational/over-reaching demands (2 years guaranteed for Snoopy Gut or 12 million guaranteed plus a player option for Sheets of Glass) they move on rather then, in my view as they have in past, fold and act in short-sighted ways that hurt the team in the long-view.

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